As debris from the Chinese spy balloon is collected and examined by the FBI, more news has come out regarding the capabilities and possible mission of the balloon. Although the Chinese government insisted it was a civilian weather balloon that got blown off course, it has been discovered that the balloon was carrying devices to intercept sensitive communications.
After news broke that the balloon was part of a global Chinese espionage program, it was revealed that the balloon flew right over key U.S. military and nuclear weapons sites, likely collecting images of these locations as it drifted across the country.
The newest revelation is that the balloon had antennas meant to collect communications signals.
On Thursday, a senior State Department official said that the balloon “was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations,” and confirmed that it was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering initiative that has flown its spy balloons over “more than 40 countries across five continents.”
“We know the PRC used these balloons for surveillance,” said the official. “High-resolution imagery from U-2 flybys revealed that the high-altitude balloon was capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations.”
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After this newest discovery, U.S. lawmakers are demanding action from the Biden administration, many of whom are angry that they didn’t shoot down the balloon as soon as it entered U.S. airspace.
After a briefing on Capitol Hill on Thursday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy criticized the Biden administration for waiting to shoot down the balloon until after it had already crossed the entire United States.
“They should have never let it into our sovereignty, they should have taken it another time,” said McCarthy.
Democratic Senator Jon Tester, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, also questioned the White House’s decision to allow the balloon to travel across the country and collect all the data and intelligence it wanted to.
“You guys have to help me understand why this baby wasn’t taken out long before and because I am telling you that this ain’t the last time,” Tester said. “We’ve [seen] brief incursions, now we’ve seen a long incursion, what happens next?”
“We don’t understand because quite frankly, we have briefed in his committee over and over and over again, about the risks that China poses, both economically and militarily,” continued Tester. “China tends to push the envelope all the time until a line is set down.”